Photo by Diane Cox
Alton assistant captain Alex Rubin puts a stop on a scoring drive from Edwardsville’s Tyler Schaeffer during the first contest between the Tigers and Redbirds in the 2014-2015 season on Dec. 11 at East Alton Ice Arena. AHS lost the game 5-0 to EHS.
The Alton Redbirds Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association 2A North Division hockey team has started its season hot and heavy. They’ve won seven times in their first nine games — with three shutouts — to find themselves in second place in the standings.
Featuring a short, but mature, 12-man line-up of primarily juniors and seniors, the Redbirds have generated 55 goals and only allowed 18 goals. With a winning percentage of .778, Alton has found a comfortable position in the MVCHA under head coach Abram Henson. The Birds had a game Thursday against Collinsville after press time.
“We’ve come out hard this season and have been able to put a lot of shots on goal,” Henson said. “Even with the loss, the best effort we put out all year was against Edwardsville. They were by far the best team we had played so far this season. We just need to repeat that effort for the rest of the season.”
The Redbirds are keeping themselves in a postseason competitive position. So far, their only losses have been to Edwardsville by a 5-0 score and Triad by a 6-4 one. They have already faced their opponents on the schedule one time and now know how to prepare for their second opportunity.
“We have to learn from our losses,” Henson said. “We are improving and getting better every day. Every game is a learning experience, whether we win or lose, there is something to take away from each game to make us better. The other coaches and I can’t do it for our guys, they have to get up and get ready for each game.”
The secrets to the Redbirds’ successes falls largely on the experience of the team and the leadership from the senior class.
“Our seniors have really stepped up and shown strong leadership,” Henson said. “They’ve had the drive and motivation from going undefeated last season and making it to nationals. We have a lot of that talent back this season with some of our younger kids really trying to step up, but our driving force has been our seniors.”
According to Henson, finding a towering talent on the Alton bench could be a challenge for those watching the Redbirds from the stands.
“Any one of our players could be the standout,” Henson said. “Guys that are team leaders like captains, Kain Henson, Jake Cunningham and Alex Rubin, those guys are phenomenal players. You have to look at the guys out there with them like Ben Drake, he’s an awesome defenseman, he’s always physical. Jake Bohn is a junior, but he’s one of those guys that has really stepped up and made a difference. Out of both lines, because we only run 12 kids, they are all really stepping up to win some games this year.”
Following Thursday’s game vs. Collinsville, Alton returns to the ice at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday in a rematch with Triad at the East Alton Ice Arena.